When I was a small child, probably 7 or 8 or so I would love to go to Zayre's Department store with my mother. Zayre's was a generic low end retailer that sold cheap goods like depictions of White Jesus in plastic gold frames along side bags of tube socks and polyester moo moos that every grandmother in North Carolina wore in the 70s. While my mother would do her shopping she would let me hang out in the toy aisle. All. By. Myself. That's right. An 8 year old kid, unattended, in a store, with his mother wandering on the other side leisurely picking up items she didn't need. I never left the toy aisle--well I did once and got lost in the tire department (to this day the smell of rubber brings about an uncontrolled panic) but a nice employee used the PA system to call my mother, which made me feel special to the point every time thereafter, I would ask the lady to call my name so I could hear it over the loud speakers. What? I like attention. But my mother would always come back and find me. Safe and content.
The world of the 70s was really dangerous for children. We were allowed to leave home, on our bikes, and pedal to the candy store down the street. We were left unsupervised to play with cousins and neighbors, to create our own island in the Pacific, were we hunted wild boar and jumped off the garage with towels tired around our necks. We had toys that could kill us. I had a Tonka Toy jeep that was made of real metal. I had broken the roof off and the four remaining spikes were razor sharp. I could've put out an eye had I tripped running with that thing. We had sheets that would burn us alive; we had cribs made with lead paint. We constantly inhaled gasoline fumes that were toxic. We had parents and siblings who would do us bodily harm while neighbors turned a blind eye. We didn't have car seats (hell we didn't even use seat belts). We didn't have teachers or student resource officers watching for signs of abuse, we didn't have Nancy Grace. There were real live perverts in white vans. There were real men dressed like clowns. It was a scary time. I write this without nostalgia. WIthout sentimentality. That was just the world of my childhood.
We live in a very different world today. For the last forty years we have been told, first by politicians, then by nightly news anchors, followed by anecdotes at church and the barbershop and finally by social media that our world is too dangerous for children to be left alone in it. It doesn't matter that child abductions are at historic lows. It doesn't matter that we have a child care system overzealously removing children from their parents. The perception--which is reality to most--is that our children need protection from evil. All. The. Time. If you let your child out of your sight for just a split second you are a bad parent. If you let your child walk to the store by himself you may be arrested for child neglect. If a school official sees a bruised arm you are investigated for abuse. Children can't play with children they don't know. Our children's lives have become regimented. A quotidian of scheduled play dates and soccer practice. Parents are constantly living in fear. Fear that something bad will happen to them or their children. This fear is irrational of course.
So it doesn't surprise me that when Charlotte passed an ordinance that would allowed transgendered individuals to use the restroom of their chosen gender that people would frenzy before or without any thought over it. As if come April 1, 2016, when the ordinance would become law, that men dressed in cheap wigs and bad pumps would be drooling at every Ladies Room entrance at the mall. These fears were always telescoped toward women and little girls as if Patriarchy was the calvary riding in to save them from a gorilla on the Rue Morgue. It didn't matter than 8 other cities in North Carolina had similar laws in place and they had been enacted without incident. It didn't matter that many other cities and states in the country had similar laws in place and there had been no indications that child molestation or rape in public bathrooms had skyrocketed. It didn't matter that child abduction or "stranger danger" was at an all time low. It didn't matter that your child is more likely to be sexually abused by one of your own family members or a person that he or she knows and NOT by a unknown person in a public place. Actually statistics have proven that public facilities like restrooms are far more dangerous for transgendered people than the people who are using the facility with them. So the state of North Carolina acted in fear and created a wide-ranging law that neither protects women and children nor the special groups it claims it does. Indeed it makes it more dangerous for those same groups by making it harder for People of Color and members of the LGBT community to sue for discrimination.
I think the saddest thing is that we have acquiesced to fear in this country. So much so that we can no longer see each other as human beings. So much so that we can't even be rational. We hear transgender-slash-bathroom and we are ready to kick somebody's ass if they touch my child when the likelihood of that happening is zero. We have given into fear for our jobs so we want to kick Mexicans out; fearful of our religion so we want to kick gays out; fearful of our freedom that we want to kick Muslims out; fearful of our own prejudices that we want to kick Black Lives Matter protesters out. So fearful for our families that the thought of having to share a bathroom with a man or women (you probably wouldn't even recognize as being their original sex anymore) so interminably frightening we want them out too. What this does is create tribalism. The more I am fearful of your tribe, the less empathetic I am to your tribe's plight. So we sit back in fear and watch the rights of our fellow Americans being eroded. What we don't realize is that the same fear is eroding us too.